A city like Frankfurt needs development strategies. In a series of interviews, the FAZ has had various experts have their say in the past few weeks: Among other things, the architect Stefan Forster spoke out against the eventization of inner cities. Christopüh Mäckler, also an architect, argued against the demonization of cars. Meanwhile, the city planner Torsten Becker confessed that the Zeil was boring him. In the fourth part of the series, which will be continued in the coming weeks, the architect duo Till Schneider and Michael Schumacher explain their visions for Frankfurt.
Outsiders can hardly tell who was responsible for which design: Till Schneider and Michael Schumacher appear as a team. The two architects have been an inseparable duo since studying at the Städelschule. In 1988 they founded the Schneider + Schumacher office, which with more than a hundred employees and branches in Vienna and China is now one of the most successful architecture offices in Frankfurt. They have shaped the city with projects such as the expansion of the Städel to include the underground garden halls and the Westhafen Tower. Her office also deals with complex tasks such as project management for the new old town or the renovation of the Silver Tower. For an architecture office of this size, it is surprising at first glance that it has not developed a recognizable signature. This has to do with the approach taken by the architects: they first analyze a location and then develop the appropriate design strategy. The architectural language is modern, but also sensitive and discreet. They don’t exist, the buildings of which one would say: typically Schneider + Schumacher.
On a scale from one (not at all) to ten (excellent), how much do you like Frankfurt?
To Schneider: 8.
But that is a good value.
Schneider: I feel very comfortable in the city. Even if there are a few shortcomings that annoy me in terms of planning. For example, I am bothered by the condition of the station forecourt, for which nobody in the city feels really responsible.
And your grade?
Michael Schumacher: 6. I also feel very comfortable in Frankfurt. In terms of urban planning, the city has developed well over the past thirty years – from the museum embankment to the groups of high-rise buildings. The picture of the city from afar is beautiful. On the other hand, the city has become very dirty and, in my opinion, also more dangerous. That has less to do with politics than with the changed behavior of people. The relationship has become more uncomfortable.
You mentioned the station forecourt. The redesign competition was launched in 2008 and the renovation is to begin in 2025. Does the example show that large urban development projects always take a long time?
Schumacher: It seems to me that it is becoming more and more difficult to follow long lines and implement them. It is good to inform, involve and discuss all affected groups together, but then decisions and action should also be taken. That has become more difficult for politicians, but it is their job.
What kind of development would urban development do in the long term?
Schumacher: If we think long-term, it is clear that we have to push the car further out of the city center because it simply takes up too much space, whether while driving or parked. It’s a big object, a bicycle is a small object. The doctrine that applied in the 1970s that all destinations must be accessible by car no longer applies. Electric mobility has made cycling more attractive for many people, and the distance that can be bridged has increased significantly.